Last week the Ontario Racing Commission came out with rules regarding the writing of racing condition for tracks in the province. The idea behind changing the rules was to not only standardize conditions, but ensure competitive fields in the province at the various tracks; reduce the option for trainers to pick and choose where they race.
In Ontario, there are basically three type of racetracks; Premier racetracks, Signature racetracks, Grassroot racetrack. A Grassroot racetrack would be a track where the racing program is community based; a program of little interest outside of the community. An example of a track like that would be a fair meet or a track like Thunder Ridge. A Signature racetrack would be a track which has the interest on a national level; perhaps a track like the Meadows. A Premier racetrack would be a track with international interest such as the Meadowlands. With the tweaking of these terms to meet American standards (based on handle), could a system like this work in the United States, or at least in New York (where all tracks are racinos) to keep trainers from cherry picking spots; making the races less competitive?
Let's take a brief look at the standards under the Ontario rules:
1. Canadian Preference - This rule is somewhat controversial even in Canada. In the United State preference for racing is based primarily on the number of days since their last race. In Ontairo, racing date is the second rule of preference, with first preference being given to horses that are stabled in Canada as of the entry date to the date of the race; an exception being made for OSS races. The opponents argue this smacks of protectionism, the proponents argue it is a way to stimulate the Canadian economy by requiring horses to be stabled in Canada at least for three days before they race.
I would imagine this rule would be controversial in the United States as well, and possibly be in violation of interstate commerce laws,
2. Purse Limitations on Claiming (and Optional Claiming Races) - With the windfall of racinos, purses at some tracks in Canada are way over priced in relationship to their claiming prices. For non-racino tracks, this is less of a problem. With the implementation of this rule, you will never see a claimer racing for a purse equal or greater than the claiming price (or optional claiming price). For grassroot tracks, the purse can not exceed 70% of the highest base claiming price in a race (in the event of a handicap). For signature tracks and up, the purses can not exceed 80% of the highest base claiming price in the race. Looking at New York tracks, a track like Monticello could offer no more than a $7,000 purse for a $10,000 claiming pace while a track like Yonkers would be able to offer a purse no more than $8,000 for the same class.
3. Minimum Claiming Prices - By limiting the minimum claiming price, you keep horses that would normally race at Woodbine from racing at a Hanover Raceway. Under the rules, the minimum claiming price for a grassroots track like Monticello would be $4,000; a signature track like Saratoga or Tioga would have a $6,000 minimum claiming tag and a premier track like Yonkers would have a minimum claiming tag of $10,000. Hence you would not see most Yonkers claimers racing at a Monticello like they are known to do now.
4. Qualifying Statndards are based on the size of the track and from what track they are coming from. - However, instead of looking at the last thirty days, it would be a case of looking at the most recent clean line. Using Tioga Downs as an example, if a horse last raced at Tioga or another 5/8th mile track, a pacer would have had to race in 2:01. A horse coming in from Saratoga or Yonkers would have to have their last start's finishing time in 2:02. A horse shipping in the Meadowlands would have to have raced at least in 2:00. Of course, with Yonkers racing at 1 1/16 mile, the time would have to be different for them. The idea is to keep the fields competitive. The standards are also intended to make it easier for customers as well as horsemen.
5. Time allowances are standardized for all tracks (Overnight races only) - Again, this portion of the rule is to ensure each track uses the same allowances. If a horse races during the colder months, they are given an allowance of one second. Two year olds are given an extra 2 second allowance and three year olds are granted a one second allowance.
6. Allowances for Ontario-sired horses, - Once again, the goal is to standardize racing conditions and make it easier for horsemen to know where to enter their horses. If an allowance is given for a state sired horse it will be offered to the monetary conditions. Currently, the Ontario rule offers a 50% allowance for Ontario sired horses at tracks except on the WEG circuit. If in New York, Yonkers could not offer a 25% supplement to NY Sired horses while Monticello offers a 15% allowance. A non-winners of $6,000 last three starts would be known to be non-winners of $9,000 in last three starts for a NY Sired horse.
7. Allowances for age and sex - In Ontario, on all circuits, conditions based on money will permit only a 25% allowance for fillies and mares over the colts and geldings. Two year olds would only get a 50% allowance at WEG tracks and no allowance at the other tracks. Once again, this avoids each track offering different allowances.
8. Conditions based on starts - All Ontario tracks will base their conditions based on three starts. This means one track can't have conditions written as non-winners of X in last three starts and the other track as non-winners of X in last five starts. The feeling is by basing the conditions on the last three starts of a horse, you will have more even fields as a horse is more likely to have the same form over three starts instead of five, six or seven starts. The only time Ontario tracks are allowed to use a different number of starts is in the case when a race doesn't fill; then they may base the also eligible conditions on 4, 5, or 6 starts. By having a rule like this, a horse that goes out of form will not be stuck in the same class an excessive number of starts.
9. Also eligible conditions are limited - Some tracks you need to be a lawyer to figure out a class. You may have a race with a main condition as nw6000l3 but have also eligible conditions of nw8000l4 or nw 7500l3 that are non-winners of 3 races lifetime or nw 5 races last time or $20,000 claimers. Racing secretaries will be limited to three also eligible conditions per race. Also eligible conditions will be standardized. No longer will you need a law degree to figure out a condition.
10.Two Year Olds Automatically Drawing the Rail - In Ontario, where two year olds enter races with older horses they are no longer guaranteed to start on the inside. Again, it standardizes it among tracks so some tracks can't offer the preference while others do.
With each state having a different situation with regards to racinos or not, it may not be easy to implement such standardization, but there is no reason why this can't be done in a single state like New York. These rules will make it easier for trainers to know where to enter their horses as well as gamblers to assess the competition.
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